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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On the Estate Planning "Conversation"

I have seen a wide range of attitudes among clients. Without getting into too much detail, I have seen everything from gratitude to suspicion. I realize that many clients are sometimes pulled into an estate planning meeting unwillingly -- by spouses, or (perhaps more often) due to their own feeling that they "have to do" something about their estate plans.

It IS, after all, an inherently uncomfortable subject. Without a doubt, I am sure that many clients would rather go out to a nice dinner, or throw a party, than meet with and then hire a lawyer to prepare estate planning documents.

I'm sure that some of my clients would even prefer a meeting with their dentist.

A recent New York Times article addresses this difficulty of opening up "The Conversation" with a family member. Here is the opening excerpt of an article addressing this even touchier family dynamic:
For many people, estate planning is both a private matter and a morbid topic — not something that parents and their adult children want to discuss. While having these conversations takes a lot of courage, they can help avoid surprises, lead to better financial planning and promote family harmony.

Julie Busch, a vocational consultant in Seattle, asked her father, Russell, about his estate plan last summer after learning he had brain cancer. She was surprised to find that Mr. Busch, a lawyer specializing in American Indian rights, did not even have a will.
Take heart. These are difficult issues (and I know this from personal experience), from my own life. For me, it was no easier than it is for my clients.

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